Blessings, Peace and Harmony: Monks are Prophetic Seeds of Renewal in a World Waiting to be Reborn
The monastic life is one of the greatest treasures of our Church
On October 17, 2012, six monks appeared on the Today Show and sang the ancient yet ever new chants which open the heavens and bring them down to those of us who need the gentle rain of grace in the desert of our daily lives.Monks are always involved in the rising of the Church. They help to water the growth of the renewal it signals. Monks are prophetic seeds of the kingdom to come who always seem to be around right when we need them the most.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - One of my favorite definitions of a theologian was offered by a monk of the fourth century, Evagrius of Pontus. He wrote in his reflections entitled "Mirror for Monks": "The Knowledge of God is the breast of Christ and whoever rests on it will be a theologian".
The Image evokes the beloved disciple John, the author of the fourth Gospel, so often depicted at the Institution of the Eucharist, the "Last Supper", with his head on the chest of Jesus the Christ. His Gospel narrative was the last to be written and is the most theologically reflective. Clearly, John was a theologian. He learned that theology in the school of prayer.
That has been my own personal experience of monks. As a 'revert' to the Church, one who returned after wandering away as a very young man, I spent 21 months in a Benedictine monastery shortly after "coming home". There, I began what has become a lifelong journey of prayer and found my hunger for theology.
I also studied the early fathers of the Church. I was taught by a wonderful monk. He was the first of several monks who have graced my life with their gift of holy presence, making Christ so palpable by their interior life - one which overflows in a genuine transfigured humanity.
From my encounters with monks, living immersed as they do in their unique and vital vocation, I learned that no matter how much formal theological study they have, it is their depth of prayer which makes them the best of theologians. So it should be with all theologians - one cannot give away what one does not truly have.
It is out of the storehouse of grace that monks and theologians are able to help the faithful in their pursuit of the longing of every human heart, communion and intimacy with the God who has revealed Himself. We find, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the "human face of God" in Jesus Christ. What is necessary is to encounter Him, contemplate that beauty and be transformed by the encounter.
A part of monastic life and spirituality is also labor, immersed in prayer. Monks support themselves through hard work, dedicated to God and caught up in the ongoing redemptive work of Jesus Christ in and through His Church. They follow a "Rule", a Way of Life. Yet, even in that, they peel back the deeper mystery and remind us that all work done in the Lord participates in His ongoing work of redemption.
Too often, people mistakenly believe that the monk retreats from the world because of its "corruption". In fact, the monk retreats (in differing ways in accordance with their particular monastic response) precisely in order to transform the world by his prophetic witness and powerful prayer.
The dedicated monk is an essential part of the Lord's plan for the Church. The Church is what the early Fathers called the "New World", being recreated in Christ. We who have been baptized never again leave the Church. We actually live in the Church and go into the world to bring all men and women home.
The monastic life a treasure of the Church.
Monasticism in the first millennium gave us the fountain of theological wisdom which still inspires the Church. Those who went into the desert became the great teachers, fathers, confessors and prophets. Their prayer and witness kept the Church in the Divine embrace so that she could effectively continue the redemptive mission of the Lord.
That is still the mission of the whole Church - and every one of her members, no matter what our specific vocation or state in life, are called to participate in it.
In the second millennium, their work and witness continued. Sadly, the Church had been torn in two with the first split, East and West. In the East, the Monks continued to be a resource for the kind of theology which brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven. From their ranks the great Bishops of the Church were chosen and the Church was continually renewed.
In the West, the great Monasteries of Europe became the beating heart of the emergence of Christendom. The extraordinary intellect exhibited in the emerging theological tradition birthed in the monasteries enabled the Church to contend with daunting challenges, welcome them without fear, contend for the faith and offer the claims of Truth Incarnate.
Over the years of Pope Benedict's service, his teaching on monks and their essential contribution to the Church has been extraordinary. In an address given in 2007, he again zeroed in on the monastic life as a gift for the whole church. It can be read in its entirety here.
I believe there is a prophetic connection between monks and the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Monks are a seed of the great renewals of the Catholic Church and he is the Pope leading ...
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